POOR PEOPLE'S DEFENSE VS LIBEL OF RICH MAN

POOR PEOPLE'S DEFENSE 
VS LIBEL OF RICH MAN


I wrote the Joint Counter-Affidavit of the people against the City Health Officer of Butuan City, Dr. Joyce T. Hidalgo, the same person who caused the demolition of the homes of these indigent.

I have been helping them pro bono.

I posted the same affidavit for all those interested to know some of the rudiments of libel case defense.

Anybody who may be interested to read, please find it at the bottom.

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Republic of the Philippines
Department of Justice
National Prosecution Service
Office of the City Prosecutor
Butuan City
Hall of Justice, Libertad, Butuan City



DR. JOYCE T. HIDALGO,
                                    Complainant,


            - versus -                                           NPS Dock. No.  XII-01-INV-14L-01378



JOCELYN AMADO, FLROIDA O.
FAELNAR, MENCELITO R. VILLAR,
ERANO F. BESA, MARILOU M.
VIRTUDAZO, ANGELITA TAN LICUP,
JERRY S. CABACHETE, DIOSDADO
S. LINAO, MERCEDES L. GOMEZ,
NOEL B. CABUTAJE, ELSIE R. DADA,
MERVIL S. VILLAR, TEOLY JOY C. POL,
ALBERTO B PULTA, CEFERINO P. TEJERO,
GUILBERT L. BESA, JOYCELYN M ERANA,
CRISPINA M. NOLLORA, ATTY. FROILAN
A. MONTERO, ATTY. FERDINAND B.
EBARLE,
                                                Respondents.
x--------------------------------------------------x
Republic of the Philippines                      )
City of Butuan                                             )SC



Joint Counter-Affidavit


            We, the signatories below, of legal age, Filipinos, all except Atty. Froilan A. Montero and Atty. Ferdinand B. Ebarle are residents of Montilla St., Brgy. San Ignacio, Butuan City, under oath, do hereby depose and state:


1.                 The instant complaint for libel must be dismissed outright for utter lack of merit and for being an act of harassment, bullying, and meant to take leverage following the act of Judge Emmanuel E. Escatron in inhibiting self from the demolition case of the complainant;



Complainant Is Not A Proper Party;
Neither A Party In Interest



2.                 In sum, the complainant is complaining because according to him we who are residents of Montilla Blvd., not including Atty. Froilan A. Montero and Atty. Ferdinand B. Ebarle, alleged libelous remarks in the Complaint we filed against Judge Escatron;


3.                 These alleged libelous remarks were actually not ascribed to the Complainant but only to Judge Escatron, Gaisano, Celebes Agricultural Corporation, Marcon Chu and Oro Rama;


4.                 The most that the complainant could connect in his bid to justify his complaint is an illogical inference that he was the one being ascribed to as the person who gave the Sixteen Million Pesos (₱16,000,000.00) to Judge Escatron;


5.                 The fact that Dr. Joyce T. Hidalgo was a party in the civil case mentioned in the complained is not sufficient to constitute libel;


6.                 It must be stressed that only a proper party can file a complaint as a complainant;


7.                 Stated otherwise, one cannot file a complaint just because another person was prejudiced;


8.                 And to stress that the complainant was not even mentioned as the one who gave to the judge a big amount from that rumored ₱16,000,000.00 bribe money, let the particular part of the complaint be reproduced:


34. There have been rumors that have persisted that the respondent judge got the biggest share from the Sixteen Million Pesos (₱16,000,000.00) that was given by the persons interested in the demolition, particularly Gaisano, Celebes Agricultural Corporation, Marcon Chu, and Oro Rama;


9.                 It is very clear that there is nothing here that mentioned the name of complainant Hidalgo;


10.            To stress, to say that there was a rumor does not mean that the rumor was true, the only thing that is asserted is the existence of the rumor and not the truth or falsity of the contents of the rumor;


11.            Actually, not even once the name of the complainant was mentioned in the said “Complaint for Dismissal of Judge” that we (other than Atty. Montero and Atty. Ebarle) filed against the judge;


12.            If the name of Hildalgo was not mentioned, there is clearly no probable cause that libel was committed against him that the respondents must be held to answer the same in court;


13.            If the judge, Gaisano, Celebes, Marcon Chu and Oro Rama did not even complain, what right does Dr. Joyce T. Hidalgo have that he now arrogates unto himself the power to file this complaint for libel?;


14.            Other than Paragraph 34 of the Complaint for Dismissal of Judge, complainant Hidalgo also complained of another aspersion that was cast against Judge Escatron, which aspersion states:


42. The complainants have been oppressed and the presiding judge has been acting like a king in Butuan City, confident that the Supreme Court cannot be able to know the violations of law committed by him because these complainants have been fearful and all the lawyers they would come to for help are afraid to go against the judge.


15.            Clearly again, there is nothing here that mentions the name of complainant Hidalgo;


16.            There is now no other option to the Office of the City Prosecutor but dismiss the instant complaint of Dr. Joyce T. Hidalgo;



Contemptuous Violation
of the Confidentiality Rule



17.            Now, we (except Atty. Montero and Atty. Ebarle) did not furnish any copy of the “Complaint for Dismissal of Judge” to anybody, including Dr. Joyce T. Hidalgo;


18.            How Dr. Hidalgo got a copy of the complaint is a big question;


19.            The only other copy of the same Complaint for Dismissal of Judge was furnished only to Judge Escatron and no one else, and it was in compliance with the due process clause to afford the concerned judge the opportunity to answer the same;


20.            In Section 12 of Rule 140, it is stated, to wit:


SEC. 12. Confidentiality of proceedings. – Proceedings against Judges of regular and special courts and Justices of the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan shall be private and confidential, but a copy of the decision or resolution of the court shall be attached to the record of the respondent in the Office of the Court Administrator.


21.            It is possible, though, that it was Judge Escatron himself who provided a copy to Dr. Hidalgo;


22.            Nevertheless, the right to the confidentiality belongs only to a respondent judge and as such it is only Judge Escatron who has the final decision whether to file an action to cite Dr. Hidalgo in contempt;


23.            At any rate, this is invoke to highlight that we can never ever furnish any copy to anybody aside from Judge Escatron himself because we know we will be cited in contempt for doing so;



Complaints Are
Absolutely-Privileged Communication


24.            The instant complaint cannot prosper because the communications involved are ABSOLUTELY-PRIVILEGED, these being contents of an official complaint filed against Judge Escatron before the Supreme Court of the Philippines;


25.            It has long been settled by the Supreme Court that all contents of pleadings, motions and all writings submitted in a court are absolutely privileged and cannot be bases to file libel complaints, and this privileged extends up to complaint-affidavit in preliminary investigation;


26.            The Supreme Court laid down this rule as a matter of policy to encourage the litigants and parties to speak up in the interest of unfettered administration of justice;



27.            In Nicasio I. Alcantara vs Vicente C. Ponce, GR No. 156183, 28 February 2007, the Supreme Court reiterated the absolutely-privileged character of the contents of any complaint, to wit:


Since the newsletter was presented during the preliminary investigation, it was vested with a privileged character. While Philippine law is silent on the question of whether the doctrine of absolute privilege extends to statements made in preliminary investigations or other proceedings preparatory to the actual trial, the U.S. case of Borg v. Boas makes a categorical declaration of the existence of such protection:

It is hornbook learning that the actions and utterances in judicial proceedings so far as the actual participants therein are concerned and preliminary steps leading to judicial action of an official nature have been given absolute privilege. Of particular interest are proceedings leading up to prosecutions or attempted prosecutions for crime xxx [A] written charge or information filed with the prosecutor or the court is not libelous although proved to be false and unfounded. Furthermore, the information given to a prosecutor by a private person for the purpose of initiating a prosecution is protected by the same cloak of immunity and cannot be used as a basis for an action for defamation. (Emphasis ours)


The ruling in Borg is persuasive in this jurisdiction. We see no reason why we should not adopt it.

Furthermore, the newsletter qualified as “a communication made bona fide upon any subject-matter in which the party communicating has an interest . . . made to a person having a corresponding interest or duty, although it contained [in]criminatory matter which without this privilege would be slanderous and actionable.”

While the doctrine of privileged communication can be abused, and its abuse can lead to great hardships, to allow libel suits to prosper strictly on this account will give rise to even greater hardships. The doctrine itself rests on public policy which looks to the free and unfettered administration of justice.    It is as a rule applied liberally.

The one obstacle that those pleading the defense of privileged communication must hurdle is the test of relevancy. Under this test, a matter alleged in the course of the proceedings need not be in every case material to the issues presented but should be legitimately related to the issues or be so pertinent to the controversy that it may become the subject of inquiry in the course of trial.


28.            There is no issue that all those utterances cited by the complainant are contents of the “Complaint for Dismissal of Judge” as even admitted by the complainant himself;


29.            We stress that Atty. Montero has had no participation in the preparation of the same Complaint for Dismissal of Judge as it was another lawyer who we asked to prepare the same complaint against Judge Escatron;


30.            We also stress that Atty. Ebarle has had no participation in the preparation of the same Complaint for Dismissal of Judge and his participation was only limited to the notarization of the same complaint against Judge Escatron;


31.            We stress that Barangay Chairman Jocelyn Amado did not instruct us, did not assist us, and did not take part in our decision to file a complaint against Judge Escatron and  she also did not take part in the preparation of the same complaint; and


32.            Ergo, the instant complaint of Dr. Joyce T. Hidalgo must be dismissed right away.


IN WITNESS WHEREOF, we sign this Joint Counter-Affidavit on this ___ January 2015 in Butuan City.




JOCELYN AMADO                                     FLROIDA O. FAELNAR
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________



MENCELITO R. VILLAR                                         ERANO F. BESA
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________




MARILOU M. VIRTUDAZO                                  ANGELITA TAN LICUP
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________




JERRY S. CABACHETE                                           DIOSDADO S. LINAO
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________




MERCEDES L. GOMEZ                                          NOEL B. CABUTAJE
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________




ELSIE R. DADA                                                        MERVIL S. VILLAR
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________




TEOLY JOY C. POL                                                  ALBERTO B PULTA
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________



CEFERINO P. TEJERO                                            GUILBERT L. BESA
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________




JOYCELYN M ERANA                                            CRISPINA M. NOLLORA
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________



ATTY. FROILAN A. MONTERO               ATTY. FERDINAND B. EBARLE
________ ID No. _________                ________ ID No. _________


            SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO BEFORE ME on ____ January 2015 in Butuan City, affiant showing their respective evidence of identity stated above below their respective names.  I further certify that I examined the affiants and I am satisfied that they read and understood their Joint Counter-Affidavit and these were approved by them voluntarily.




NEMESON B. CANETE

ADMINISTERING OFFICER
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